‘Design is what links creativity and innovation. It shapes ideas to become practical and attractive propositions for users or customers. Design may be described as creativity deployed to a specific end.’ Pardon the blatant theft of Sir George Cox’s fine explanation of design, but he said it so well. And after all, Cox is the man who believes UK businesses can stay ahead of their global rivals by drawing on this country’s world-leading design capabilities.

The Key elements here are ‘Creativity and Innovation’ and ‘practical and attractive propositions for users and customers’. Design, of course, is all around us. In every man made object we see, touch and use on a daily basis. Some of which has the essence of all the above, others may not be so practical for example, whilst others are… well, a bit ‘marmite’. My mate’s dad absolutely loves the bridge on The M25 heading towards Guildford; you know the one that looks like it was designed in the dark with a blunt pencil! I, on the other hand don’t quite get it, in fact would go so far as to call is hideous. But that is where it is purely subjective. Motorway bridges aren’t supposed to be emotive. However it becomes less subjective when the initial brief was more focused.

So, moving away from public sector and to consumer products we see a very different set of criteria. Take Apple, arguably THE darling of innovation this century. In all their product design, Apple has the user experience at the heart of everything they do and it’s hard to argue with their user friendliness or their aesthetic appeal. And Apple have got it right, working from the inside out. So many products look great but don’t deliver on capability.

But great design is not just the preserve of products or buildings. In todays customer driven world, even if you are selling a service, you arguably need to be even more attuned to design. If you’re already running a successful business and you are happy with the architecture of your offering, make sure you have considered that the ‘packaging’ delivers the message of what’s on the inside. From the structure of your offering, through to the look and feel of your presentations, your web site – your offering needs great creative appeal to help build a picture of what is on the inside. It needs to say what is different about you, why you are the best choice and why your existing customers love you and are coming back for more. It is human nature that you will never appeal to everybody (even Apple has it’s detractors), but if your product is great, remember that with many people it is the first impression that sticks in their minds, whether it’s your first telephone communication, what they feel about you when they walk through your door or if your website is relevant to their needs, you need to put your self in the best possible position of winning and retaining that customer. And remember if you have a successful business, keep the essence of that success at the heart of everything you create, share and communicate then you won’t go far wrong.

If I could own one of the many great quotes from the mouth of the legendary Steve Jobs, then it would be ‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like it is how it works’. And he is so right, get the offering straight and then build the packaging around it.

RIP Steve Jobs.

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